Wednesday, February 18, 2015


This stirring poem about General Nathan Bedford Forrest was written by a relative of Dragoon Bill Branch, Virginia Fraser Boyle.  Virginia Fraser Boyle was the daughter of Mary Virginia Austin and Charles Wesley Fraser, a Confederate Cavalry officer and later prominent lawyer in Memphis. Mary Virginia Austin and her sister Letitia Sarah Austin were daughters of Hugh Rice Austin, Mississippi Planter and newspaper editor of Madison County, Mississippi.

by Virginia Fraser Boyle (1863-1938)

It was out of the South that the lion heart came,
From the ranks of the Gray like the flashing of flame,
A juggler with fortune, a master with fame---
The rugged heart born to command.

And he rode by the star of an unconquered will,
And he struck with the might of an undaunted skill;
Unschooled, but as firm as the granite-flanked hill---
As true and as tried as steel.

Though the Gray were outnumbered, he counted no odd,
But fought like a demon and struck like a god,
Disclaiming defeat on the blood-curdled sod,
As he pledged to the South that he loved.

'Twas saddle and spur, or on foot in the field,
Unguided by tactics that knew how to yield;
Stripped of all, save his honor, but rich in that shield,
Full armored by natures own hand.

As the rush of the storm he swept on the foe;
It was "Come!" to his legions---he never said "Go!"
With sinews unbending, how could the world know
That he rallied a starving host?

For the wondering ranks of the foe were like clay
To these men of flint in the molten day
And the hell-hounds of war howled afar for their prey,
When the arm of a Forrest led.

Was he devil or angel? Life stirred when he spoke,
And the current of courage, if slumbering, woke
At the yell of the leader, for never was broke
The record men wondering read.

With a hundred lie charged like a thousand men,
And the hoofbeats of one seemed the tattoo of ten.
What bar were burned bridges or flooded fords when
The wizard of battles was there?

But his pity could bend to a fallen foe,
The mailed hand soothe a brother's woe;
He had time to be human, for tears to flow---
For the heart of the man to thrill.

Then "On!" as though never a halt befell,
With a swinging blade and the rebel yell.
Through the song of the bullets and the plowshares of hell---
The hero, half iron, half soul

Swing, rustless blade in the strong left hand---
Ride, soul of a god, through the dauntless band---
Through the low, green mounds of the breadth of the land---
Wherever your legions dwell!

Swing, rebel blade, through the halls of fame,
Where courage and justice have left your name;
By the torches of glory your deeds shall flame
With the reckoning of Time!

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